Watchdog May Sue for Arrest of NC Pro-Lifers at ESSENTIAL Prayer Gathering

‘It makes no sense that an abortion business can stay open … but social service charity volunteers can’t pray and offer material support outside…’

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Alliance Defending Freedom on Thursday threatened to sue the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, for illegally and unconstitutionally arresting pro-life Christians.

Last Saturday, Charlotte–Mecklenburg police officers arrested eight pro-life Christians, including members of LoveLife and Cities4Life, for counseling women considering an abortion and praying outside a Preferred Women’s Health Center, ADF reported.

As a result, Cities4Life President David Benham and others who were arrested may need “to pursue legal claims arising from the City of Charlotte’s unlawful denial of their constitutional right to freely assemble, speak, and pray in a traditional public forum,” warned ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot in a letter to Charlotte City Attorney Patrick Baker.

Benham said he was simply exercising his constitutional rights, which were not waived due to the city’s recent shelter-in-place order barring assemblies of more than 10 people amid widespread panic over the coronavirus pandemic.

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The order also decrees that those who are out in public for reasons deemed “essential” by city officials must maintain “social distancing” of at least six feet of space.

“My desire is simply to do what I am legally permitted to do under the emergency orders that are in place, and that’s what I and the others have taken great care to do,” Benham said.

“It makes no sense that someone can walk or ride a bike down a sidewalk, but a person can’t walk and pray there,” he said. “It makes no sense that an abortion business can stay open to offer purely elective abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic but social service charity volunteers can’t pray and offer material support outside while obeying the emergency order and proclamation.”

Police cited 12 other people for violating emergency commands.

However, the group was following the county’s distancing dictates, washing their hands, and providing essential “charitable and social services,” Benham said.

“This wasn’t about public health and safety; it was about the city silencing people because it doesn’t like their point of view,” Theriot said.

“We support the efforts of public officials to prioritize health and safety, but if other groups are free to assemble, people of faith should be, too,” he added. “And if abortion clinics can stay open during the coronavirus crisis, Christians should be allowed to pray and offer counseling outside—particularly those abiding by health and safety guidelines, as Mr. Benham and the others were.”

Cities4Life and LoveLife both offer prayer, counseling, and social services for expectant mothers in hopes they that will embrace their unborn child’s life.

On behalf of LoveLife, ADF warned the city of Greensboro, North Carolina that it could face a similar lawsuit for arresting three men in a similar incident.